Lion King remake reviews: ‘Beautiful but soulless’ The reviews of live action Lion King

Disney’s decision to remake its cherished 1994 Lion King animation was met with excitement and trepidation by fans. The live-action reboot is the third Disney remake  of its kind this year and follows Aladdin and Dumbo. While the film has been widely praised for its visual mastery some critics have slammed it for lacking soul. These are the Lion King live action reviews.

The Lion King remake’s star-studded cast hit the red carpet in LA for the movie’s world premiere this week.

Beyoncé, Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino), Seth Rogan and Billy Eichner were among actors to breathe new life into the hallowed classic.

As well as news stars, the original voice of Mufasa, James Earl Jones, returned to play Simba’s dad in the 2019 flick.

While the remake is loyal to the original film’s plot, the CGI update makes for hyperreal watching.

The film has generally received three and four-star reviews but some critics have slammed it for the loss of some of its original magic.

From a “technological marvel” to “beautiful but soulless” here’s what the reviews say.

Time Magazine

Time Magazine critic Stephanie Zacharek wrote: “Disney’s New The Lion King Is Beautiful But Soulless.”

Ms Zacharek said: “This Lion King certainly took a lot of effort to make, and every bead of sweat shows.

“The lions and other animals sport highly realistic fur and feathers; their mouths move and words spill out, in a manner that’s either wonderful or silly depending on your tolerance for hyperrealistic creatures’ spouting lessons about the circle of life and other oversimplified nuggets of food-chain wisdom.”

While Zacharek praises the film’s visual mastery she claims it lacks some of the magic of the original.

She said: “The original Lion King is so beloved by so many—the thinking must have been, Better not to mess with it too much.

“In that respect, this Lion King is a faithful remake, and in terms of its technology, it’s at times quite beautiful to behold.

“Giraffes run hither and thither on spotty, spindly legs; zebra herds dash by, a stripey blur.

“But there’s no sense of wonder in this new Lion King—its most visible attribute is ambition. It works hard for the money. Chiefly, yours.”

Forbes

Forbes critic Scott Mendelson calls the film a “crushing disappointment” despite the impressive CGI.

He wrote: “Yes, the technical talent and artistic intent on display is quite impressive.

“[But] it exists only to remind you that the original movie is still, nitpicks and cultural issues aside, pretty great, and that they made most of the right choices the first time around.

“At almost every moment, this version is almost intentionally less urgent, less enchanting, less passionate and less operatic.”

The Independent

The Independent’s Clarisse Loughrey gave four stars praising it as a “technological marvel of unprecedented hyperrealism”.

She added: “If anything, The Lion King uses nostalgia as a springboard for experimentation, finding new ways to tell old stories, while reminding us what makes those stories feel truly timeless in the first place.”

The Guardian

The film gets a three-star review from the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw who wrote: “This is a virtual shot-for-shot reproduction of the original, and some credulous souls have been excitably posting side-by-side images on social media, showing the cartoon and its digital duplication.

“Have these people quite grasped that this just is an animation as well, and that director Jon Favreau has not in fact trained real animals to imitate scenes from the 1994 film? Maybe not.”

He added: “Basically, this new Lion King sticks very closely to the original version, and in that sense it’s of course watchable and enjoyable. But I missed the simplicity and vividness of the original hand-drawn images.”

The Telegraph

The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin gives it four stars and hails it as a “roaring success.”

He writes: “In an odd way, the power of this new Lion King comes from the outside: you soak up its astonishing photoreal visuals and marvel at the extraordinary progress that can occur within a single generation, yet still ache for the beauty and purity of the hand-crafted animation that was lost to make way for it.”

He added: “You might imagine that easy-breezy, Hakuna Matata-chanting middle act would only work when drawn by hand. Yet cinematographer Caleb Deschanel’s expert command of “natural” spectacle and the sheer exuberance of Rogen and Eichner’s performances make it the film’s most purely delightful section, and it’s almost a pity when the adult Simba and Nala, very earnestly voiced by Donald Glover and Beyoncé, return to the Pridelands as duty calls. Ah well: life goes on.”

Collider

Collider gave a C grade, saying: “The Lion King is slightly better than Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin if for no other reason it doesn’t feel too bloated and the additions largely make sense.”

Vox

Vox said the new effort is “just like the original, but without the magic”.

“As an expansion of the 1994 film, The Lion King says and adds little,” Alissa Wilkinson argues.

“It’s a half-hour longer than the original, but for no discernible reason. Scar has gone from being creepy to some kind of beta incel.

“Some of the campiness of the original, particularly from the hyenas, is gone, and even a (very) slightly expanded role for Nala still fails to offer anything interesting.”

The Lion King is out in UK cinemas on July 19.

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